See on desktop!



In this #PROFILE series, we touch base with the recipients of DESIGNSCAPES’ 3rd and final Open Call for design-enabled Innovation Scalability Proofs.

Back in December, we met with Stefano Tamascelli and Silvia Brandalesi from City Hearing Log, to touch base on the challenges caused by the current health crisis, their strategies as a team, as well as what lies ahead of them in the coming months.

City Hearing Log in a nutshell

The project focuses on the development of an app that helps mapping noise pollution in urban environments, raising awareness of citizens and administrators, and at the same time helping people suffering from hearing impairments to better cope with loud city areas.

The project started in Padova (Italy) and is now trying to expand to other cities, through collaborations with different companies. 

What is City Hearing Log currently busy with?

As Stefano Tamascelli told us, “we are redesigning the user interface […] based on the users’ feedback.” And besides the technical part, City Hearing Log is trying to find new partners to continue developing their technology and possibly open new markets. “We are working with a company now that creates rollercoasters. The idea is to use sound to understand some problems in the ride itself.” “This is not our market,” Stefano admitted, “but it is a good opportunity for us,” adding that “all the other partners stopped because of COVID.”

Regarding current hurdles and obstacles

Upon asking about how the COVID-19 crisis had affected the way the City Hearing Log team works, Stefano told us that “the public administrations now only talk about COVID — not about the project.” More importantly, perhaps: The main partners in the project have now put their work on hold. “We are working with two hospitals, Padua Hospital and Modena Hospital for the audiological part of City Hearing Log … Obviously, we stopped testing because people cannot enter the hospital to do the test,” he acknowledged. “NATUS Medical, another partner […] does not want people outside of their organization to enter the building so they stopped the tests.” 

“Finding new partners to continue developing the technology and possibly open new markets.”


Stefano explained then that the company tried to change its approach by increasing its activities online. “We have a lot of conference presence, forum presence, Steam [Video Game Platform] presence,”, he explained. “We have more or less 2,000 people who downloaded the application and these are good numbers, given the situation. […] But this is for the testing part, not about the commercial impact. For the commercial impact, we need to have stakeholders, we need to have these partnerships with the companies.”

Stefano also mentioned the way the situation impacted users’ feedback on the product: “City Hearing Log is a system to collect data, and right now having more people to collect the data is not possible,” he said. “People collect one or two sounds, send to us some feedback but it’s not the same… They cannot walk around on their own in the city to take audio — it’s more fun to do it with other people, but today that’s not possible.” Finally, Silvia Brandalesi  highlighted the important fact that when it comes to working with people with disabilities, “having meetings obviously presents a risk for them.”

The team and strategy behind City Hearing Log

Stefano and Silvia then told us a bit about his company and its 20 years of experience in multiple projects at the European level. “XTeam is a company that focuses on development,” Stefano explained, adding that the core competencies of the team are “development, project management, and gamification techniques.”

By working mostly as technical partners, the company’s strategy revolves around setting collaborations with other organizations interested in using their technology — organizations which can in turn share their expertise in their respective fields. “For City Hearing Log,” Stefano mentioned, “we are relying on the collaboration with the hospital or, for example, Padova or Modena university and NATUS Medical.” 

“Our scope is to create long-term collaborations, long-term partnerships,” Stefano told us: “In this case, the company invests time, invests money to create a product”. He then explained, “We cannot create a product. We try to create a technology that we can replicate in another scenario and find ways to create a product. For example, I would have never thought to use this system on rollercoasters…!” 

About finding collaborations for the Scalability phase

“The project facilitates contact with the companies,” Stefano said, as he explained how the app testing in the prototyping phase help them find partners for the replication phase: one of the people invited to attend the test spread the word about the project, reaching another company interested in working with their technology. “One of the tech people in this company contacted us with this idea” … and so the collaboration was set. “For us, this is the continuation of Phase 2 [the prototyping phase of the project].” he said, “because Phase 2 opened some doors to the Scalability phase.”

Key takeaways so far

Discussing the project’s experience until now, Stefano and Silvia underlined the benefits of shifting from their habitual working process: “We are a video game company,” he said, “and for example, for the scalability phase, we used the normal process. But with the hospital, we needed to change that, because hospitals or audiology companies use another type of process. It’s more a question of personas, scenarios…”. With Designscapes, we re-studied all these design tools”, he said, “and we really changed something from our normal workflow.” 

“Our scope is to create long-term collaborations, long-term partnerships.” 


This change in approach led as well to important findings. As Stefano explained, they now have a clear vision of the need to develop their technology in two different ways: “Designscapes helped us find the right border between the citizen and the audiology aspect.” He continued by saying that “in the future, we will probably create two different applications — maintaining City Hearing Log for citizens and creating something more specific for people with hearing loss.”

What’s next?

Upon sharing the team’s goals and expectations for the future, Stefano told us: “In the future, we’ll obviously want to try to find other people who can test the application, because an application needs a lot of different types of feedback.” While the COVID crisis remains, “the idea is to create different types of products based on City Hearing Log technology,” he said. “For sure we’ll keep the conversation going with the rollercoaster company.”

In the long term, Stefano said he hoped to resume working with the partners who currently put their work with City Hearing Log on pause. “For us, the social impact is important,” he confided, “and that part of our work has been suspended. A crucial aspect for City Hearing Log indeed, since without the medical part, “we cannot advance because we may end up creating something that’s not usable for the patient: the people suffering from hearing loss.”

Photos: City Hearing Log